One of the best ways to protect yourself is to arm yourself with knowledge about what a scam might look like. Scams often share some common features, which can help you to recognise them. It may be a scam if:
1- You’re contacted out of the blue – receiving an unexpected call from a person/company you’ve never heard of, or from what seems to be a familiar company but asking for something unlikely.
2- You’re told to take urgent action – tight deadlines and persuasive language are designed to pressure you or stop you from thinking clearly. Scammers might try to make you panic by suggesting you’ll be at risk legally or financially if you delay.
3- What it says is unlikely – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You might be told you’ve won a prize draw you don’t remember entering, or be offered an investment opportunity with returns that sound too good.
"Don’t be embarrassed about reporting a scam. Because the scammers are cunning and clever there is no shame in being deceived. By reporting it you will make it more difficult for them to deceive others." Jim, Metropolitan Police
4- You’re told to keep it secret – be suspicious if you’re asked not to tell anyone, or told not to ring an organisation like your bank to check the accuracy on what you’ve been told. This can stop you sharing information with other people who might notice something suspicious.
5- The communication is unprofessional – bad spelling and grammar, over familiar or odd language, are common in scams. This is a deliberate tactic to target people who might not notice these errors. Scammers might use vague or strange contact details, such as a mobile number, a PO Box, or an email address that’s different to what you would expect.
6- You’re asked to pay money upfront – for goods or services that won’t materialise, to release a non-existent prize they claim you’ve won, or to claim a non-existent inheritance.
7- You’re asked for personal or banking information – passwords, bank account information, PIN numbers or National Insurance number.
An estimated half a million older people in the UK have fallen victim to a scam. However, the real number could be much higher because many people may feel embarrassed to admit it. Anyone can be the victim of a scam, although older people may be more vulnerable. Scammers often target people who live alone, have more savings/valuables or are willing to talk to fraudsters.